The 2018 gubernatorial race for the Democratic nomination is far from over at this point, but we have reached a point where we can see a pecking order of sorts.
J.B. Pritzker, the heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and generous donator to several Democratic candidates over the years, has been the prohibitive favorite essentially since he announced. He’s secured endorsement from several prominent Illinois Democrats, including Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D–East Moline). It doesn’t seem like it will stop there; we can wager more nominations from establishment Dems will be on the way before the March primary.
We had our first dropout from the Democratic side last week, as Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar called it quits, citing lack of funding as his reason for not pressing on. Pawar had a good deal of support among the Berniecrat wing of the party, as does State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston). With Pawar out of the race, Biss should pick up a decent amount of support from those that flipped to Pawar after the Rosa fiasco last month.
Other than that incident, Biss has run a solid campaign so far and is very popular in the Bloomington-Normal area among Democrats. He is running into the same problems that Pawar ran into, though, and that’s not something that will fly when running up against billionaire Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, who has enough money in his own right to go with a name that could attract people with money. That being said, Biss has run a campaign that is far superior to Kennedy’s. With Kennedy’s name alone, he should be fundraising at a level that rivals Pritzker, but he simply isn’t getting the job done.
Should Rauner even win the nomination of his own party, he faces a tough road ahead. There have been rumblings of someone from the GOP rising up to face Rauner in the aftermath of the HB 40 signing, something that did not go well with downstate Republicans. Rauner had promised to veto the bill, and then signed it for a reason that is still unclear. Rauner himself is pro-choice, but one would think that facing a re-election campaign, he would have done anything to stay in favor with his party. No matter who the nominee is on the Democratic side, Rauner is as vulnerable as he’s ever been.
Though Pritzker is seen as the favorite, there is reason to ask if he is the right choice. Do the people of Illinois truly need another businessman with no policy experience to speak of? Pritzker’s generous donations to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama before are all well and good, but does that make one qualified to run the state? It’s more than fair to ask this in the era of Rauner and Donald Trump, two businessmen with zero policy experience. The Democrats should be careful when signing themselves up for another businessman governor, as it could backfire immensely, even if that businessman is on their side.
No matter your affiliation, no experience in an elected office is a negative. Pritzker stands for social issues that get Democrats in an uproar, but so far there has been little, if any, talk of policy. But then again, this is campaign season. When is there ever talk of policy?